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Rail line costs jump by $150M

TALLAHASSEE — The cost for a controversial commuter rail project in Orlando has jumped more than $150-million.

Instead of $491-million announced in August 2006, the state estimates it will spend about $650-million. The state said it had grossly underestimated, at $59-million, the cost of constructing five overpasses as part of the deal. Instead, the state will need to spend $203-million.

The overpasses are part of a complex deal Florida struck with CSX railroad. The state has agreed to pay CSX $150-million for 61.5 miles of railroad through urban Orlando to use for commuter rail. The remaining money will be spent to help improve other CSX lines and facilities, including overpasses in Alachua, Sumter and Marion counties.

The cost increases provided new ammunition for the project's opponents.

"It's amazing. We're in the tightest budget year in 10 years, and they just keep finding money," said Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland.

Florida Department of Transportation officials said the $59-million was slated before the projects had studies to set costs. In at least one case, a report was done in 1998 and lacked up to date cost information.

The projects use a mix of state transportation funding.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, downplayed the increase, saying the bigger issue is whether Florida would commit to improving rail lines for commuters and freight — and more efficient transportation.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Rail line costs jump by $150M 03/25/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 8:58pm]
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